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Breakdown: The Athletic Greens TikTok Strategy

November 14, 2021

Today, I wanted to share some thoughts about TikTok, and lastly go deep on how we send/seed products to creators and drive revenue from TikTok without spending any money on ads.

First, pay to play:

There are over 1,000,000,000 users on the app, and the average person spends 52 minutes scrolling their For You Page (FYP) per day. That statistic could be total BS, but as a user myself, I am probably on the app for about 52 minutes each night before sleeping too.

The ads I see today are decent, but it's also apparent that many brands don't understand the role TikTok plays in their marketing funnel, or how the culture of the app works.

TikTok isn't a platform that encourages people to leave the FYP from clicking a link. Sure, you can post a video and link a Wikipedia page, or have a link in your bio, but as a TikTok user, when was the last time you clicked a link or swiped to the left to open up an ad? Maybe to just see what was there, but there's no chance you're going to make a purchase on that in-app browser. On the flip side, the platform is INCREDIBLE for starting the conversation of what you're pushing.

Athletic Greens spends quite a bit of money on TikTok, and lately they've been iterating and deploying creative pretty quickly. I'd imagine that's because while they may not see attribution happen right away in the in-app browser, people are  finding the site on their own later, and taking a step toward trial. AG has been around since 2009, but you can see this Google Trends chart clearly showing this year they are taking off. There's a chance it's not related to TikTok at all, but my guess is that it's directly correlated to people learning on TikTok, and searching outside the platform.

The ads platform itself is not bad either. Deploying creative is easy, the platform rarely has bugs/issues within it, and pixel implementation is a breeze, especially if you use Shopify. They are currently beta testing a better update to view-through attribution. At the very least, you should have your pixel on the site, so when you're ready to turn your ads on, your pixel has some learnings.

The punchline of TikTok ads: Make your creative relevant to the platform, don't just run your Instagram story creative or Facebook creative. Realize that TikTok ads live in the middle/upper funnel of your customer journey, so focus on education and starting the conversation. Don't try to close a sale right away. Lastly, make sure the links you drive to in ads are optimized for someone coming from TikTok — don't recycle your best acquisition landing page from Facebook.

Second, organic posting.

I haven't seen many brands do that well organically. It's hard to have a social media manager responsible for 5 channels execute TikTok properly, and it's because the platform moves so fast. 

To do well as a brand account, you need to be on top of the trends, in fact you want to be on them before they reach the point of virality. The best way to do that? Hire a creator.

With Instagram, it was easy to post content of photoshoots, UGC, etc, but with TikTok, you can't just repost what other people post about your brand/products, it has to be authentically you. Poppi is a good example of a brand that has a consistent face to the brand. The problem, still, is that TikTok consumers don't really care to see what brands have to post, that's why they're on TikTok instead of Instagram!

But, do I think it's worth taking $4-6k a month and invest it into a creator who can put out 1-2 videos per day? Absolutely. If 2 "pop" in a month, this person will pay for themselves, and make you a "cool brand" in the eyes of TikTokers.

Third, creator seeding.

Notice, I didn't say influencer seeding, and that's because with TikTok, influencers don't really win, it's everyday people who are just good story tellers. People want to hear from people.

My favorite recent example is if you walk into Trader Joes today, you might see the corner of the store dedicated to making Emily Mariko's Salmon Rice bowl. If that sentence made no sense to you, don't worry boomer, you'll survive.

We've found creator seeding to be the most successful form of TikTok marketing, and here's exactly how we did it:

Make a list of ideal creators

Whether you use a platform like Dovetale to make a hit list, or use TikTok's own Creator Marketplace, you'll end up with the same result. My preference is actually to browse the app myself and make a list based on the content I like most, but it's the "scenic route" to making a list — not as quick.

When making this list, you want to identify creators who have between 20,000 to 150,000 followers on TikTok. That amount of followers on TikTok is not really considered much, BUT it does show you they know how to create content well-enough to have some followers.

Note: Similar to how there's an exchange rate with currencies, it's similar with social platforms. 10,000 fans on a Facebook page holds a different value than 10,000 on TikTok vs Twitter vs Instagram.

Reach out to the creators.

When you reach out to creators, you want to be precise and direct. Imagine that this person already gets enough messages, and will barely have time to read/respond to you in the first place.

Shaan Puri had an amazing trick in his Power Writing course that he taught when you reach out to people, "Aim for a yes, no, or talk to this person as the response you get." So your message reaching out doesn't need to include your whole life story, but just get them to say yes, no, or talk to my manager.

If someone says no, it's always worth trying to understand why. It might help you improve your pitch as you reach out to more in the future to seed to.

Seed product.

When sending product, make sure you're sending what sells best on your site. Don't send product that's laying around because no one buys it. Ideally, you're sending a sampler kit, a variety pack, or a bundle that shows different product variants.

You can test the concept of asking for a video in exchange for the product against just sending the product with a nice hand-written note inside and include the brand's TikTok account, so they know who to tag. On the note, you can add a coupon code that matches their name, or if you're able to, make a landing page for them (see this JuneShine example). People love sharing their own codes or URLs — it adds to their ego!

For testing the two ways to get a video up, I found not asking for the video directly, but making the note clear with the handle to work better than asking for a video. No one likes to be told what to do, but when you send something nice, they'll likely end up posting on their own.

Side note: if you have any special packaging or things you can include, it goes a long way. If you're sending a tequila, add some shot glasses. If you're sending JuneShine, add a branded tumbler.

Monitor what does well, and why.

As the videos start to go up, there's a lot to monitor. Views are a big one, to see what "pops", but also look at engagement. Are people interested in what your product does? In addition, how is the creator talking about the product? Outside of the initial DM and maybe the note you sent, they had to figure out how to explain what your product does on their own — it's a good insight into whether your product is intuitive or not.

If you use vanity URLs or coupon codes, you can monitor sales coming in on the back end, in addition to things like time on site and bounce rate. Long term, you should look at the customer cohorts and understand which influencers drove the best LTV for you.

If you send out 50 packages to creators, 20% should see some good views, and a handful will probably go viral. You'll see spikes of traffic, and unlike TikTok ads, when creator videos pop, they drive immediate sales. 

TikTok ads start the conversation, and TikTok creators drive conversion.

Run ads behind those that garnered lots of views.

The last piece of this equation is leveraging TikTok's genius whitelisting capabilities in the ad platform. Unlike the way Facebook/Instagram have made it like jumping through hoops to boost good organic content from creators, with TikTok you just need to get a single code from the creators called the Ad Authorization Code. 

Once you get this code from creators, you can take the existing TikTok, with all the engagement, and run media behind it to an audience you know will react well to your ad. We've found pretty good success doing this with website retargeting audiences, but even with prospecting audiences. 

Sometimes creators are just better at explaining what you sell than you are! It's ok though, you're drinking the kool-aid and they're not, so they have an outside advantage.

Side note: Running good TikTok's as FB/IG ads do wonders as well. TikTok videos are just native to what people want to see, and you're forced to tell a story very quickly. We did this earlier this year and saw 5-6% CTRs, which dramatically reduced the CPA. 

In conclusion...

While the first two tactics here require some level of spending money, on ads or on a creator, the last one is just your hard costs to send product and the cost of your time investment to find the right creators. We've also seen that with the last strategy, it does a generous job of building top of funnel making even Facebook ads cheaper.

On to some fun stuff...